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The 1% Difference

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I've often said that the difference between good and great is just 1%. The delta between someone in the top 5% of wage earners in this country and someone in the top 10% can be as little as 1%. It doesn't take a whole lot of effort to stand out and get ahead of the person next to you. Most times, all it takes is just an extra 1% of energy, effort, determination or the willingness to try something different. Work a little harder or work a little smarter. That's all it takes. Those who reap the greatest rewards in life...most often just put in a little more...that's the 1% I'm talking about.

Having statistically lived two thirds of my life, I've seen it a million times. Most people quit right when they are on the verge of greatness. I've seen people quit jobs, give up on their careers, walk out on relationships, get divorced, stop working out, give up golf and a million other things right when they are on the verge of a major break through or about to achieve success. I've seen people give up on quitting smoking, drinking and gambling after the worst of the withdrawl symptoms had lifted only to start the habit again. Maybe it's because we've become so accustomed to success and immediate gratification that many of us aren't willing to put in that 1% of extra sweat equity it takes to achieve greatness. We've been trained on fast food, having it "our" way, immediate downloads and a host of other subliminal messages that teach us to believe that success should be certain, immediate, guaranteed and an inalienable right.

Unfortunately, what I'm about to write isn't a popular notion. We don't learn as much from our successes as we do from our failures. All success means is that we already knew how to do something, got lucky or had the talent to accomplish that task from the start. When we fail, we actually learn something. We learn what didn't work and can analyze how to do it better in the future. Thomas Edison was said to have made over 6,000 attempts to find the right products to invent the light bulb. He learned something different every time he tried using a new metal or plant species.

On the other hand, there are those serendipitous successes when we discover something unintended as the results of our efforts. Post-It notes and the microwave oven are examples of everyday conveniences that were the results of researchers trying to make other discoveries.

So, how does this all relate to marathon training? The big day is less than two weeks away. Race bibs are currently available on Craig's list and a host of other websites from those who have already quit training. Some just gave up. Others may have gotten injured. Many just decided that what seemed like a good idea at the time they signed up for the race isn't quite such a good idea now or worth the effort. Still, other folks just didn't feel like putting in the time or they started training too late to prepare fully for the full 26 mile excursion.

For me, there were a lot of times I've wanted to quit since I started this odyssey. There were days that my knees hurt, my hips ached and I just didn't feel like getting up at 4 a.m. to trek 19 or 20 miles that day. It didn't matter. Deep down inside I knew that I just needed to give that extra 1% to achieve my goal. I don't have to finish first. I don't have to finish in the top 5%. I don't have to finish in less than 4 hours. I just need to finish. Success is relative. It's up to each person to determine their own vision of success. And, then get there by having the passion and determination to put in that extra 1%.

Good luck to those of you still hanging in there. I'll see you in Grant Park in just a few days. And, thanks to my friend Chris who called today and pledged to be at mile 18 to help pace me for a few miles, bring some Goo and take my mind off the pain. That offer meant a lot. I hope everyone has a friend like Chris along the course or at the end of their run on race day.

Good running,


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Excellent message. Persistence alone can be that extra 1% you need for greatness.

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This page contains a single entry by Lance Adeszko published on September 29, 2011 8:58 AM.

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